Last Wednesday, the Associated Students of Whitworth University (ASWU) voted not to hold re-elections for campus representatives, despite the unanimous recommendation of the Student Election Committee (SEC) to hold a re-election.
The recommendation from the SEC came after a procedural failure to comply with ambiguous election policies in the ASWU bylaws concerning candidate reference forms.
As a result, the election policies requiring candidates to submit reference forms before general elections are being revised, according to an email sent to the ASWU assembly by ASWU executive vice president Chase Weholt.
In previous elections, write-in candidates were not required to have references submitted to the SEC before general elections.
“The difference about being a write-in is that you only have 24 hours to complete a process that the other people had a whole week to do,” said Bre Lyons, ASWU special events coordinator.
Official candidates, or those students who have their name on the ballot, are required to have their applications turned into the SEC the Friday before primary elections, Weholt said.
In accordance with this policy, freshman Aundrea Temple was prohibited from running for Arend representative in the primary elections as an official candidate because one of her references did not submit the form before the deadline.
“It’s kinda like when you do a group project and the people don’t help out in your group and your grade is determined by their lack of effort,” Temple said.
Temple had formulated a campaign strategy, submitted her application and informed her three references of their role in her application process days before the application had been due, she said. However, because her resident director hadn’t turned in a reference, she was banned from campaigning and only allowed to run as a write-in candidate.
Write-ins have traditionally not been required to have references in by election day.
Although no official grievance was submitted, a concern about the reference form policy was brought to SEC’s attention soon after the primary elections were held: Should official candidates be required to submit three completed reference forms before elections when write-in candidates are not?
Prompted by the concern about the election process, the SEC took a closer look at the election bylaws and realized some of the terms in the bylaws and election information packet were vague, particularly what the word “application” meant, which has now been interpreted to mean both the written component and the three references, Weholt said.
“When we looked at the bylaws, we discovered that there were some discrepancies: write-ins needed to have references,” Weholt said.
According to the current interpretation of ASWU bylaws, both official and write-in candidates must submit references before general elections to run for a representative position.
Three days after general elections, in light of the new information, the SEC, consisting of three ASWU members and four other students, unanimously voted to hold a re-election of the six dorm representative positions.
The Ballard and McMillan and Boppell communities will not have a representative other than their senators this year.
On Oct. 7, nine of the 12 ASWU voting body, compiled of nine senators and three newly elected campus representatives who ran solely against other official candidates, voted to overrule the SEC’s decision.
“I think people are just exhausted with the whole process, that I think we would have been re-doing it for our own sake,” said Lyons, who is not a voting member. “That’s something we talked a lot about: who would we have been benefiting by re-voting? I think it really would have just benefited ASWU and ASWU’s image, and not necessarily the people that ran, or would’ve run.”
Temple said she disagreed that the decision to hold re-elections wouldn’t have benefited the students who ran and would have run again.
“By looking at the situation, [ASWU] could tell it wasn’t a fair situation and to not really do anything about it makes me wonder whats going to happen in the future,” Temple said.
The SEC is currently working to change the electoral process and procedures by requiring applicants to list reference contact information instead of have the references completed and submitted. It will be up to the EVP to contact references when needed, Weholt said. The SEC also plans to make the language clear and consistent throughout the election documents.
“We’ll [ASWU] do whatever we can in our power to make sure elections are to procedure, and we’ll be as inclusive as possible,” ASWU President Justin Botejue said.
Weholt added, “We want to have the print match the principle.”
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